Solar industry's ray of sunshine

Mel McMillan | 15th February 2011

The Northern Rivers solar industry is calling on the Coalition to stand up for solar energy and adopt a policy which will grow the fledgling industry while creating jobs and reducing carbon emissions.

Lismore MP Thomas George will meet with Nickel Renewable Energy today and the Rainbow Power Company in Nimbin tomorrow, where he will be asked to throw his support behind the introduction of a 45 cent net feed-in tariff, paid to households with grid interactive solar systems.

Representatives from Nickel Energy and Rainbow Power attended a meeting of the NSW chapter of the Sustainable Energy Industry Association in Sydney last week where it was decided the industry should lobby for a new feed-in tariff in the lead up to March’s election.

Last year, the NSW Government reduced the gross feed-in tariff from 60 cents per kW hour to 20 cents, before capping the scheme at 300 megawatts of connected capacity last month.

It is unclear whether installations conducted after the cap is reached would attract any tariff at all.

“We went from having the best tariff to the worst,” Nickel Energy chef executive Nick Lake said.

Rainbow Power director John Davis said the company would also ask Mr George to support the tariff, which would see households paid 45 cents per kW hour for any excess energy generated.

Mr Davis said the solar industry was in its infancy and had experienced a growth spurt in response to the introduction of the feed-in tariff which began in January last year.

The new tariff would provide more incentive for households to install solar systems and was less generous than similar schemes in other states, Mr Davis said.

He claimed the coal industry continued to receive millions of dollars worth of tax concessions from the Federal Government while the solar industry was left to struggle with no assistance from the State Government.

Mr Lake said despite the axing of the tariff installing a solar system would continue to be cost effective over the long term because the cost of electricity would continue to rise.

The Federal Government’s solar credits program still offers a rebate for the purchase of systems, Mr Lake said.

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